Although the sheer scale of the numbers of animals killed by animal testing at the University might come as a shock to many, it must not be forgotten that this has become an accepted, and possibly essential, practice in modern society. Animal testing has led to breakthroughs that have helped us all; it’s not pleasant, but it is something most people accept.
The University holds a leading position as far as national research is concerned and animal testing will contribute to part of this. Of course, there are serious ethical questions as to whether killing the animals on campus is necessary and I can fully understand why some people disagree with the practice. While the figures indicate it is an everyday occurrence at York, in comparison to other institutions, the University has not been as extreme. Newcastle University has faced severe criticism for testing on primates.
That kind of research is very different to York’s testing on mice, rats, and frogs. In fact, I will extend an invitation to the science departments to come to Halifax and get rid of the rats that seem to be lurking around my accommodation, but not the hedgehogs, we like them.
The campaign group that has had some success at other universities, is now targeting York. However, their methods of campaigning threaten to undermine their cause further. The campaign at Newcastle caused controversy as protesters entered banned areas and clashed with police. The storming of laboratories and the sabotaging of the University Ball, as seen at Bradford, is not the right way forward. If they continue to act in this manner they will lose the sympathy of their own supporters.
It has been argued that animal tests do not always provide successful results and there are alternatives. But until truly effective ways to conduct the same research at the same rate become available, a small amount of animal testing is morally acceptable. 10,000 is a lot of animals, but animal testing is currently the only way that gives the most accurate results without testing on humans. Alternatives such as computer programmes and testing on proteins are evolving but are still not as effective.
It is important to remember that many of the big scientific breakthroughs have come from animal testing at universities. This is the reason why the practice has continued for years, despite campaigns against the use of it. The University’s testing is classed as “moderate” by the Home Office, and as long as this does not progress any further, that may satisfy most.
The solution for the University is a compromise with the campaigners. 10,000 is too many animals to be killed in research each year. However, the testing should continue if there is a chance of scientific breakthrough. But only when a more effective method of research becomes available will the practice really be able to stop. Because only then will it become unjustified.